Nine months has lapsed since the Alaska Aces last took the Cow Palace ice against the San Francisco Bulls. But those nine months isn’t near long enough to cleanse Bulls coach Pat Curcio’s memory of what happened in April on his team’s home rink.
“Anytime we play Alaska, it’s motivating,” said Curcio, now in his second year as the Bulls’ coach and general manager. “They beat us last year in the playoffs.”
And beat the Bulls convincingly Alaska did, besting the then-first-year ECHL team 4-1 in the playoff series.
But come Thursday through Saturday, Curcio’s Bulls — a minor-league affiliate of the Sharks — will get another crack at Alaska as they’ll host the Aces in a three-game home stint.
“We started the season in their rink,” Curcio said. “So we know it’s going to be tough, and we know that they’re a very good hockey team. So we have to be at our best and ready to go.” But the Bulls may not be at their best.
In just a week, San Francisco lost Tyler Gron and Adrian Foster, as the two forwards were called up to the American Hockey League ranks. Gron, who led the Bulls in scoring with 14 goals along with 10 assists, joined the Worchester Sharks on Monday while Foster, who tallied five goals and 12 assists in 15 games, was loaned to the Abbotsford Heat.
“It’s a catch-22. You’re here to develop them and make them better, but you still love winning hockey games,” Curcio said. “But now it’s an opportunity for other guys to step up into those roles.”
Forward Mark Lee, who managed three goals and eight assists in 17 games, also departed as he signed with the Schwenninger Wild Wings of the Elite League in Germany.
“I think that our roster has gone through a little bit of a makeover,” Curcio said. “We’re getting a few players back from San Jose this week, but our core guys are still here and they’ve been playing real well.”
Losing 10 of their last 18 games, three of those being in overtime, the Bulls are currently third in the ECHL’s Pacific Division with 29 points, while Alaska (40 points) is second in the Mountain Division.
“We’ve battled our last 15, 20 games to be a .500 hockey club, and I think we’re getting close to that,” Curcio said. “And I think with 40 games left roughly, we’re ready to start winning some more games and make a move.”
NOTE: For Saturday’s game, the Bulls will unveil special LGBT jerseys for the teams’ second annual LGBT night. Two of the worn jerseys will be auctioned off with part of the proceeds going to San Francisco Pride. “I’m a firm believer in everything equal and anything we can do to support the different communities and the different things people are involved in, we’re going to do it,” Curcio said. “And I think San Francisco is a great place to be doing it in.”ECHLHockeyPat CurcioSan Francisco Bulls